The Daily Break

One uplifting story a day from better times

There was Narwhal, the Missouri rescue puppy whose story flew around the Internet because of a second tail sprouting from his little forehead. Then there was Jubilee, a Siberian husky rejected by a breeder for looking “weird.” Both were rescue dogs brought to shelters in hopes they would be adopted. During the pandemic, people are bringing home dogs and cats from shelters for companionship in record numbers, so it’s fitting that today is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Pet Day.

April 30

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A stray dog wandered into a family’s house in the night and made herself at home

It was 4 a.m. when Jack Jokinen woke up to find his wife standing over him with unusual news: Their 1-month-old daughter was fine, his wife said, but there was an unfamiliar dog in their living room.

Jokinen said he figured there had to be some kind of misunderstanding. Perplexed, he walked downstairs Saturday morning and found an emaciated dog sitting in the middle of the floor — wet, shaking and visibly afraid.

Jokinen worried that someone had broken into their Philadelphia house with the dog in tow. He checked the doors and then the windows. Everything was locked, and no one was hiding in the closets. So Jokinen pulled up the footage from his security camera. The video showed the dog sauntering through his open front door.

This story, written by Marisa Iati, was originally published on Dec. 18, 2019. Read the full story here.

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‘This is my dog’: Viral beer cans help pup lost for three years find her home more than 1,000 miles away

A breeder rejected this dog because she looked ‘weird,’ a shelter said. Now she’s Internet famous.

More from the Calendar

A stray dog wandered into a family’s house in the night and made herself at home
A man driving a banana car was pulled over. The cop gave him $20 instead of a ticket.
This couple’s ‘first kiss’ was when she performed CPR on him. They’ve been in love since.
A mail carrier in Georgia retired. Strangers across social media celebrated.
Meet the friar who combined flour and faith to win the ‘Great American Baking Show’
Penguins toured an aquarium that closed because of the coronavirus.
A 6-year-old ordered $350 in Barbies from Amazon. Her parents gave them to a hospital.
Books for the ages
Grandmother orcas help their grand-whales survive
A restaurant gave a birthday discount to 109-year-old woman — and ended up owing her money
‘Old coots’ offer life advice. Their slogan: ‘It’s probably bad advice, but it’s free.’
The crane who fell in love with a human
A 9-year-old is changing what the peach-colored crayon symbolizes
This 32-year-old poet (and firefighter) mails poems to strangers
This art challenge has made museum masterpieces go viral
People try to claim the darnedest tax deductions to reduce their tax bills.
Comedians are being hired by the hour to help dementia patients. Their goal? ‘A full belly laugh.’
I stopped sleeping. Then I tried a method that’s supposed to work in two minutes or less.
This man proposed to his girlfriend by planting a carrot inside a diamond ring, and waiting months for her to discover it
This orchestra in Little Rock is performing bedtime lullabies for your self-quarantine
This adopted woman scoured the country for the sister she never met — only to discover she literally lived next door
All manner of holiday yard decorations sprout up as people are stuck at home
This woman turned her tree stump into a Little Free Library fit for magical elves
For 20 years, happy hour has seen us through work — and life
Americans are stocking up on dry goods, toilet paper … and puzzles
Virginia hotel workers send family hilarious photos of lost dog toy, delighting thousands across the country
A woman with dementia is lighting up the pop charts with a pitch-perfect tune
The Nats’ celebration wasn’t a parade. It was a massive gathering of a joyous sports family.
How to upgrade your favorite sandwich
Why this man became internationally beloved for his dad jokes

April 29

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A man driving a banana car was pulled over. The cop gave him $20 instead of a ticket.

Steve Braithwaite spotted the flashing blue-and-red police lights — and promptly pulled his banana off the road.

Braithwaite has spent the past two years driving his homemade, banana-shaped convertible across America, offering pay-what-you-can rides to fund his days and sleeping nights on strangers’ couches or in cheap motels. He’s become quite familiar with the police: Officers often pull him over, friendly but curious, and ask what on Earth he’s doing.

So when he saw the state trooper ease onto the road behind him as he was driving down U.S. 223 near Adrian, Mich., in October, Braithwaite thought he knew what was coming.

“We chatted. ... He checked my headlights, brake lights, taillights,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite also explained his banana road trip, which he calls “The World Needs More Whimsy Grand Tour.” The trooper took Braithwaite’s license and walked away. When he returned, he handed the license back — but something was different.

“He had wrapped 20 bucks around it!," Braithwaite said. “[Then] he just said, ‘Safe travels.’”

This story, written by Hannah Natanson, was originally published on Nov. 22, 2019. Read the full story here.

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This car’s crazy paint job dazzles everyone who sees it

A dog drove doughnuts alone in a car for half an hour. There’s video.

Steve Braithwaite can be spotted driving his homemade, banana-shaped convertible across America, offering pay-what-you-can rides to fund his days and sleeping nights on strangers’ couches or in cheap motels. He’s no stranger to cops pulling him over — but one time, he was gifted something besides a ticket: some cash. Steve’s motto: “In life, you should do something ridiculous — and be proud of it.”

April 28

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This couple’s ‘first kiss’ was when she performed CPR on him. They’ve been in love since.

Andi Traynor and Max Montgomery had gotten together casually and nonromantically a few times, before the morning they went surfing on California’s Capitola Beach.

As they were walking off the beach, Montgomery fell to the ground. Traynor, a doctor, was confused for a moment. Then she checked and realized he did not have a pulse. He was having a heart attack.

She gave him CPR and sent him off in an ambulance, not sure whether had survived. Days later, she found out he in fact had, and they started a relationship.

“We do consider the CPR our first kiss,” Traynor said. “But the day he got out of the hospital, we had our first real kiss.”

This story, written by Allison Klein, was originally published on Sept. 10, 2018. Read the full story here.

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They dated in high school, broke up, lost touch: A Valentine’s Day love story

The teen lovebirds last saw each other in 1952. Now they were reuniting. But was it love?

Today is Kiss Your Mate Day. Here’s a twist on the classic kiss-and-fall-in-love story. Friends Andi Traynor and Max Montgomery went surfing one morning in California when Max fell to the ground in the sand. Traynor, a doctor, realized he was having a heart attack. She gave him mouth-to-mouth and saved his life. Later, a relationship bloomed. Looking back, they both consider it their first kiss.

April 27

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A mail carrier in Georgia retired. Strangers across social media celebrated.

Longtime mail carrier Floyd Martin retired from his neighborhood route in Marietta, Ga., last spring, which might have called for a handshake or even a cake to send him off.

Instead, the Atlanta suburb made a show of love and respect so big for Martin, it trended on social media, as tens of thousands of people across the country are cheering along for what Floyd has meant to the community.

Neighbors in Marietta decorated their mailboxes for him, presented him with gifts and threw a tearful block party as they recounted all they ways he has been more than a mail carrier over the past 20 years.

This story, written by Allison Klein, was originally published on May 24, 2019. Read the full story here.

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In Takoma Park, the mailman is more beloved than what he delivers

Not all heroes wear capes. Some carry the mail.

Mail carriers covered in masks and gloves continue their important job, usually with a smile and a wave, while most of us remain at home. Here is a story of a community that celebrated its longtime mail carrier last year with such a show of love and respect, it trended on social media with tens of thousands of people across the country. Neighbors raised enough money to send him on his dream vacation to Hawaii.

April 26

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Meet the friar who combined flour and faith to win the ‘Great American Baking Show’

The kind of benevolent silence you might expect in a friary — especially on a late Friday afternoon — has settled over the warren of dim hallways and jigsaw puzzle of rooms.

And there, in the back kitchen of the 103-year-old Capuchin College in Northeast Washington, stands Brother Andrew Corriente, hacking away at a Napoleon. Shards of puff pastry explode off the plate, and whipped cream splotches out with every impact.

Today Corriente is analyzing his puff pastry, which requires a deft hand at incorporating flour and butter to achieve those signature flaky layers. Corriente, who is also studying at Catholic University to become a priest, has been working to master it, and analyzing the results is just one step in the process.

This story, written by Becky Krystal, was originally published on Feb. 24, 2020. Read the full story here.

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This 13-year-old opened a bakery. For every cupcake he sells, he gives one to the homeless.

Here’s the twist: These soft pretzels are easy to make at home

We’re all baking these days. But Brother Andrew Corriente, who is studying at Catholic University to become a priest, has been working to master it. Corriente is the most recent winner of the “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition.” He bakes for his 30 roommates in Northeast Washington. He also cooks for the community.

April 25

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Penguins toured an aquarium that closed because of the coronavirus.

With much of Chicago under quarantine, it was time for the penguins to take over.

The inquisitive birds wandered down the darkened hallways of Shedd Aquarium, checking out exhibits about the Amazon rainforest and southeast Asian streams. They inspected giant tanks holding stingrays, dolphins and red-bellied piranhas, turning their heads to look in every direction like miniature tuxedo-clad security guards.

Then, they waddled over to the empty information desk, ready to assume the job of greeting visitors whenever the crowds returned.

This story, written by Antonia Noori Farzan, was originally published on March 17, 2020. Read the full story here.

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Bronx Zoo hatches a fairy penguin, the first in its 120-year history

These penguins found a camera in Antarctica and captured a surprisingly good ‘selfie’

Five short weeks ago, we watched penguins tour an aquarium that was closed because of coronavirus concerns. With the absence of visitors, the rockhopper penguins were free to roam the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It was exactly what we needed at the time, and perhaps we still need those waddling penguins.

April 24

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A 6-year-old ordered $350 in Barbies from Amazon. Her parents gave them to a hospital.

Katelyn Lunt, 6, did extra chores with an eye on a reward her mother had promised: a purple Barbie Dreamtopia Rainbow Cove Fairy Doll that she’d been coveting for months.

She watched her mother order the doll on the family computer in their home in Pleasant View, Utah. The next day, Katelyn asked if she could check the Amazon shipping status, so her mom called up the page, then walked out of the room.

On the page, Katelyn noticed suggestions about other toys she might like — Barbie Dolphin Magic Transforming Mermaid Doll with a squirting dolphin, Barbie Dreamtopia elephant, Barbie Fashionistas wardrobe closet.

A few clicks later, with more than $350 worth of Barbie merchandise in her cart, Katelyn placed the order, then ran off to play.

Two days later, a huge stack of boxes arrived at the house.

Katelyn wanted to open all of the packages she’d ordered, but her parents said no. Instead of sending back the dolls, her parents donated them to the children’s hospital where Katelyn spent time as a baby.

This story, written by Cathy Free, was originally published on Aug. 23, 2018. Read the full story here.

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12 kids who are changing their communities and our world

The power of imagination, and other parenting lessons from Calvin and Hobbes

This Utah mother learned a valuable lesson: Never leave your Barbie-loving first-grader alone at the computer with an Amazon page of Barbies. Katelyn Lunt, 6, acting alone, ordered doll after doll to her family’s home. When the stacks of boxes arrived two days later, Katelyn learned a valuable lesson, too, when her parents donated the dolls to a hospital. On National Teach Children to Save Day, here is a story of educating kids about the value of a dollar.

April 23

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Books for the ages

Books are a portal to our personal histories. Pick up a worn copy of a childhood favorite and you might be transported to the warmth of a parent’s arms, a beanbag chair in a first-grade classroom or a library in your hometown. Avid readers could build autobiographies around their favorite books and come to the realization that what they have read is almost as meaningful as when they read it. A high-schooler poring over “To Kill a Mockingbird” for a summer reading assignment encounters a different book than someone who reads it decades later, closer in age and outlook to Atticus than Scout.

In light of that reality, we took a stab at picking the best book for every age.

This story, written by the staff of Book World, was originally published on June 26, 2019. Read the full story here.

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The Washington Post Book Club

The 10 types of readers you meet during a quarantine

A book that moves one reader may not resonate with another. But here we offer you a carefully curated list of titles our editors recommend as worthwhile to read during each year of life, from 1 to 100 — along with some of the age-appropriate wisdom they impart. It may not be perfect, but it’s a pretty good place to start.

April 22

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Grandmother orcas help their grand-whales survive

In the Salish Sea off Seattle and Vancouver lives an orca with a tall, hooked dorsal fin. Her formal name is J19, but she is better known as Shachi. And Shachi is a boss.

As the leader of J Pod, one of three related orca family groups that make up the area’s southern resident killer whale population, Shachi’s presence is critical to the success of the pod’s younger members. Matriarchs lead their pods to rich hunting grounds, help other whales hunt and have been spotted sharing fish with young novices.

But there’s something even more special about Shachi: At 40 years of age, she is not just a matriarch, but a grandmother.

This story, written by Jason Bittel, was originally published on Dec. 9, 2019. Read the full story here.

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Seven artists reflect on the beauties of each continent for Earth Day

How much do you know about Earth Day and the environment?

Shachi, a female orca who lives in the Salish Sea off Seattle and Vancouver, is not just a matriarch, but a grandmother. Shachi is critical to the success of the pod’s younger members, just like with human grandmothers. Here is a tribute to her on Earth Day.

April 21

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A restaurant gave a birthday discount to 109-year-old woman — and ended up owing her money

When Helen Self turned 100, she went for a spin on a Harley-Davidson. When she turned 108, she was named one of Montana’s two oldest people.

And when Self turned 109, she got a whopping birthday discount based on her age: A restaurant gave her a 109 percent discount on her meal — meaning the restaurant actually paid her to eat there.

Restaurant owner Nick Alonzo was there to hand her the dollar and change, and in return she gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll come back next year,” Self said, according to her daughter Shirley Gunter, 86. “Don’t tell his wife I kissed him.”

This story, written by Allison Klein, was originally published on Sept. 6, 2018. Read the full story here.

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He’s stuck at home for his 12th birthday. Thousands of strangers helped his dad with a surprise.

7 layer cake recipes to help you bake your way through whatever life piles on

The Montana Club, a popular steak-and-seafood restaurant in Montana, offers a special birthday discount: 1 percent off for each year of a person’s life. So when Helen Self came in on her 109th birthday, she was no exception — the restaurant actually paid her to eat there.

April 20

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‘Old coots’ offer life advice. Their slogan: ‘It’s probably bad advice, but it’s free.’

The group of retired friends who meet every Saturday morning at a Salt Lake City deli were growing tired of the same conversation each week.

Sure, they were solving the world’s problems. But they wanted more excitement in their Saturday morning. They wanted to share their wisdom beyond their friend group of seven. As a lark, they set up a card table at the nearby Salt Lake City’s farmers market and told people they were dispensing free advice.

Tony Caputo, founder of a deli with his namesake where the group usually meets, made a large banner and hung it up: “Old coots giving advice — It’s probably bad advice, but it’s free.”

“People ask us, ‘Are you guys qualified to do this?’ and of course, we have to say no,” said Caputo, 69.

This story, written by Cathy Free, was originally published on Sept. 27, 2018. Read the full story here.

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After a woman’s bout with homelessness, she set up pop-up walls to share kindness and the basic necessities with others in need

This man broke a hip while mowing his lawn. The EMTs who responded finished his yardwork.

With age comes wisdom. Or something like that. A group of friends who call themselves “old coots” set up a table at a Salt Lake City farmers market and offered free advice. They thought they could offer whatever knowledge they had, and they also thought it would be a hoot. They set up a banner: “Old coots giving advice — It’s probably bad advice, but it’s free.”

April 19

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The crane who fell in love with a human

When Walnut arrived at the Front Royal, Va., endangered species breeding center, back in 2004, she was the most genetically valuable white-naped crane in captivity. At 23, she had yet to produce a single chick, and she had a reputation for murdering her mates. Two male cranes that made amorous overtures toward Walnut had been found dead, with their bellies sliced open by her sharp claws.

Chris Crowe, the newest keeper, was assigned to the case. “Walnut had this whole ‘black widow’ thing going,” said fellow zookeeper Warren Lynch recalls. “I told Chris, ‘Be careful with this one.’ ”

He would be so careful, in fact, so thoughtful and patient and understanding, that whether Walnut would become pregnant would be just one part of what transpired between them. Because the larger story was how Chris Crowe won over Walnut’s wild heart.

This story, written by Sadie Dingfelder, was originally published on July 23, 2018. Read the full story here.

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For more than a decade, butterflies have repeatedly landed on me. I think I’m blessed by the red admiral.

Watch a zoo gorilla and his caretaker do synchronized handstands

There is an incredible love story out of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute near Shenandoah National Park. A rare female crane named Walnut who was known for murdering her mates ended up choosing zookeeper Chris Crowe as a mate for life. Here’s the story of how Crowe carefully and patiently won her heart.

April 18

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A 9-year-old is changing what the peach-colored crayon symbolizes

One day people might walk through a Virginia museum, pause in front of an exhibit and wonder how a 9-year-old girl made a box of crayons feel worthy of display.

Here’s what they should know about that girl:

She never expected her story to become part of a museum’s collection.

She never expected lawmakers to name her in proclamations or news crews to want to film her.

She never expected that a moment in class would spark an idea, which would evolve into action, which would lead to strangers across the country talking about identity and race and childhood.

“I was thinking at first it was going to be a small project, that only a few people would know about it at my school,” Bellen Woodard said.

This story, written by Theresa Vargas, was originally published on Feb. 22, 2020. Read the full story here.

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‘A moment of awe’: Photo of little girl captivated by Michelle Obama portrait goes viral

Washington’s latest tell-all memoir: The secrets of a preschool girl gone viral

Bellen Woodard, who is 9, said in her third-grade classroom, she would hear her friends ask for the “skin-color” crayon.” She knew that meant the peach-color crayon. She also knew her skin wasn’t the color of peaches. She is the only black girl in her grade. This is the story of how Bellen finally got people to stop thinking that peach was the “skin color” crayon.

April 17

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This 32-year-old poet (and firefighter) mails poems to strangers

Somewhere in Prince William County, two residents receive an unusual piece of mail every day: a greeting card containing the same handwritten poem.

The next day, two more people will get a different poem. The lines of verse are selected and transcribed by local resident Natalie Potell, who began a two-year stint as the county's poet laureate in October.

Potell, a 32-year-old Fairfax County firefighter, said part of the inspiration for this project came from having a pen pal for a decade who passed away last summer. “Getting something in the mail that’s not a bill, that’s not junk mail — it really means something,” she said.

She doesn’t know if any of the poems she has sent have sparked the imaginations of their recipients. And that is by design. While Potell writes on the envelopes that the poem comes from the county’s poet laureate, she doesn’t include a return address, because she doesn’t want people to feel pressure to respond. “I want it to be truly random,” she says.

This story, written by Rachel Kurzius, was originally published on Feb. 12, 2019. Read the full story here.

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Are you a poet and you know it? Take our quiz for National Poetry Month.

The Washington Post and Library of Congress spotlight poets laureate in new weekly video series during National Poetry Month

Natalie Potell, a Virginia firefighter, became Prince William County’s poet laureate last year. As such, every day she mails two residents a greeting card with a handwritten poem. “Getting something in the mail that’s not a bill, that’s not junk mail — it really means something,” said Potell, who is an inspiration this April, which is National Poetry Month.

April 16

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This art challenge has made museum masterpieces go viral

The art world has gone online since the coronavirus pandemic devastated everyday life. With museums closed for now, institutions have launched virtual tours and live streams.

But we reached a new level of art appreciation this week when the Getty Museum challenged the Internet to browse its online collection and re-create works of art at home.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users rose to the challenge valiantly, using their self-quarantined inventory to whip together bootleg artwork. No household object, or tenant, was spared in the process. Pets, children, cans of tuna, toilet paper and bonsai trees are just some of the tools used to make this magic.

This story, written by Natalie Compton, was originally published on April 3. Read the full story here.

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Great works in focus

His postcards capture life in the nation’s capital. Now, he’s turning them into coloring pages.

Museums are closed and many (let’s be honest, most) of us stuck at home are going a little batty. So it makes perfect sense that we might fancy ourselves an undercover Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali in the privacy of our living room. People have been staging famous works of art using whatever they have on hand and posting them to social media. It’s the distraction we need.

April 15

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People try to claim the darnedest tax deductions to reduce their tax bills.

People try to claim the darnedest tax deductions to reduce their tax bills.

Yes, your pet Chihuahua has a ferocious bark. But, no, you can’t claim Coco is a guard dog for your home-based business and is thus a legitimate tax deduction.

You might feel that your cat or dog is a dependent, but you can’t deduct expenses for the family pet. You may, however, qualify for a medical deduction for a service animal.

I asked accountants about the outlandish deductions they’ve seen people try to claim.

“A client injured his wrists, so the doctor told him to keep his wrists elevated,” said Lawrence Pon, a certified public accountant based in Redwood City, Calif. “He asked me if he purchased a Harley with those high handlebars, can he deduct that as a medical expense?”

This story, written by Michelle Singletary, was originally published on Feb. 4, 2020. Read the full story here.

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Death, taxes — and a few good one-liners

The best Tax Day jokes from late night

You’ve been given a reprieve! Tax Day has been pushed back this year, one of the few minor silver linings of the coronavirus. Keep your money in your pockets until July 15. And while you’re at it, check out some of the outlandish things people have tried to claim as tax deductions.

April 14

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Comedians are being hired by the hour to help dementia patients. Their goal? ‘A full belly laugh.’

After Dani Klein Modisett moved her mother from Manhattan to an Alzheimer’s care center near her Los Angeles home in 2016, she noticed that her mom, then 84, was sad and withdrawn.

Muriel Klein, once the life of the party (even with her memory loss), was no longer talkative or interested in food.

During a dental exam one afternoon, Modisett, an author and former stand-up comedian, tearfully told her dentist she wished she could hire a comedian for her mother.

“Why don’t you?” her dentist replied.

Modisett went home and made a few calls, and soon she had hired a stand-up comedian to visit her mom eight hours a week. The very first day, her mother lit up.

“After that visit, my mom became more engaged and started eating and laughing again,” she said.

This story, written by Cathy Free, was originally published on Sept. 17, 2019. Read the full story here.

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Laughter really is the best medicine? In many ways, that’s no joke.

For these vets, making people laugh is the best medicine

Funnyman Izzy Gesell designated April 14 as International Moment of Laughter Day. “Laughter comes right after breathing as just about the healthiest thing you can do,” he said. Most of us can use some levity now. Here’s a story about how comedians aren’t just making people laugh, they’re actually hired to help dementia patients.

April 13

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I stopped sleeping. Then I tried a method that’s supposed to work in two minutes or less.

Recently, I stopped sleeping. I used to be one of those champion sleepers — you know the type. I possessed the power to fall asleep on a city bus or on a long car ride. I could lie in bed for 30 seconds and immediately conk out. And I needed it, too: Sleep is the only thing that makes me a person and not a wolf in the morning.

I tried peppermint tea, a glass of warm milk, banning electronic devices from our bedroom. I tried going to bed earlier. I tried going to bed later. I removed caffeine and alcohol from my diet entirely.

Then I got crazy and started looking into other options. I was willing to try pretty much anything.

The so-called military method is supposed to make you fall asleep within two minutes. It was developed during World War II to enable U.S. pilots to fall asleep under less-than-ideal circumstances. So I thought: What the heck. Why not?

This story, written by Emily Maloney, was originally published on Jan. 8, 2019. Read the full story here.

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How to create a sleep-friendly bedroom

This elementary school principal reads books on Facebook to ensure her students have a bedtime story

Imagine drifting off to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. Wishful thinking these days. Stress levels are high, and it’s hard to turn off your brain at night. Experts say to keep the lights off, minimize noise and put down your phone. If that’s not working for you, try this method that’s supposed to help you drift off in two minutes or less. Really.

April 12

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This man proposed to his girlfriend by planting a carrot inside a diamond ring, and waiting months for her to discover it

John Neville and Danielle “DeeJay” Squires had been together for about six years, and both figured they’d tie the knot someday.

When Squires was pregnant with their son, four years ago, Neville secretly bought her a diamond engagement ring. He held onto it, trying to find just the right time to pop the question.

“I’m a procrastinator like you wouldn’t believe,” said Neville, 36.

He couldn’t get out of his head a news story he had seen in which a Canadian woman found her lost diamond ring in a carrot while she was gardening.

He wanted to grow a carrot inside the diamond ring he bought for Squires.

This story, written by Allison Klein, was originally published on Sept. 24, 2019. Read the full story here.

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A bride-to-be sent an invitation to the wrong address. It came back with this note.

He said ‘yes’! Why aren’t more women proposing to their boyfriends?

The pandemic canceled their wedding. So they held it in Animal Crossing.

A storm was ruining this beach wedding. Then a total stranger made the bride an offer.

Being patient is hard. Sitting and waiting doesn’t suit everyone. And these days, we spend so much time waiting: waiting in line at an appropriate social distance, waiting for phone calls, waiting to resume our regular lives. Here is a story about the beauty of waiting, how some things — like love and carrots — just take time to cultivate and grow. Spoiler alert: She said yes.

April 11

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This orchestra in Little Rock is performing bedtime lullabies for your self-quarantine

When the mayor of Little Rock declared a state of emergency, it meant the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s planned tribute to Aretha Franklin would have to be postponed. The novel coronavirus outbreak placed Arkansas, and most other states, in a lockdown.

But despite the order to stay home, Drew Irvin — the orchestra’s co-concertmaster — came up with a way to play some music.

Every night around 9 o’clock in Little Rock, Irvin and other members of the orchestra have been uploading performances on Facebook. The series is called “Bedtime With Bach,” and it’s a way to provide some live music when so many are stuck at home.

This story, written by Teddy Amenabar, was originally published on March 25, 2020. Read the full story here.

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Concerts are canceled. So Coldplay, John Legend and Keith Urban are playing right in your living rooms.

More older adults learn it’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument

Musicians are used to playing in front of a crowd, feeding off the energy of the audience. But with venues closed and concerts canceled, artists like John Legend and Coldplay’s Chris Martin are playing sets from home with the hashtag #TogetherAtHome. And you can find Yo-Yo MA recording his set on Twitter. Plenty of homebound amateur musicians are picking up their own instruments and joining a Zoom band, because, hey, we can all use a mood boost.

April 10

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This adopted woman scoured the country for the sister she never met — only to discover she literally lived next door

Hillary Harris was adopted as an infant. She searched for her birth family as an adult, and after many years, her search was incomplete. She knew she had a half sister, and she knew the sister’s name from her adoption file, but she couldn’t find her.

At night, Harris would Google her sister’s name — Dawn Johnson — and scour Facebook photos of the thousands of Dawn Johnsons out there. She would peer into their faces, trying to see if any of them looked like her. Maybe just a little?

Then one day, in 2017, a couple moved in next door to the home Harris and her husband own in Eau Claire, Wis. The woman’s name was Dawn, and she was from Greenwood, Wis., the same place Harris’s sister lived, according to the adoption file.

Harris would watch Dawn from a distance. “I was always looking at her, thinking, ‘Could it be her?’” Harris said. “I never had the courage to ask. I didn’t want to be nosy and pry into her life.”

She finally got the courage to text her.

This story, written by Allison Klein, was originally published on June 27, 2018. Read the full story here.

Other links:

‘Be kind to one another’: The importance of sibling relationships

Siblings are our first, and forever, best friends

Today is National Sibling Day, and there’s no better time to reach out to your sisters and brothers and apologize for that thing you did years ago. Oh wait, shouldn’t they be apologizing to you? Maybe today is the day to let it be. Give them a call and catch up.

April 9

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All manner of holiday yard decorations sprout up as people are stuck at home

It’s springtime, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — and Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

People are restless while stuck at home and craving some levity as the coronavirus crisis becomes more dire each day. Across the country, people are doing puzzles in record numbers, joining online dance parties — and digging out their holiday lights and inflatables to set them up in an effort to bring merriment to their neighborhoods.

“It’s a tough time we’re going through as a country and the world in general,” said Lane Grindle, who put up a string of white LED lights on his Wisconsin home to the delight of his four kids, ages 4 to 11.

This story, written by Kellie B. Gormly, was originally published on March 27, 2020. Read the full story here.

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A colorful — and delicate — Ukrainian tradition

A neighbor anonymously called Christmas dragons in her yard ‘demonic.’ So she put more up.

Pull out the Christmas lights. Or the Halloween decorations. Or the Easter yard scene. With the quarantine keeping people either inside or, when they do venture out, close to home, many are brightening up the exterior of their houses with lights, rainbows, teddy bears, valentine hearts or whatever they have handy.

April 8

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This woman turned her tree stump into a Little Free Library fit for magical elves

For more than a decade, Sharalee Armitage Howard watched in dismay as the grand cottonwood tree in front of her Idaho home plopped dead branches on her flower gardens and sidewalk.

It was time to cut it down. But Howard, a book lover, felt an attachment to the tree. She wanted to give it a new life.

So Howard designed a Pinterest-worthy Little Free Library that is so delightful it looks like the home of a family of magical elves. The converted stump-turned-book-offering is complete with stone steps leading to a tiny glass French door, a hanging lantern, shelves and a peaked roof. The top of the door is dotted with tiny wooden replicas of books such as “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Nancy Drew” and “Little Women.”

She had no idea her creation would not only become the talk of her neighborhood, it would also fly across the Internet on social media, reaching people around the world.

This story, written by Cathy Free, was originally published on May 1, 2019. Read the full story here.

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A small bookstore had to relocate. Hundreds formed a human chain to move its books.

650 people formed a human chain to move children’s books from one library to another

The best books to read at every age, from 1 to 100

You might have some extra time on your hands these days, and you might be using that time to read books. We’ve compiled a list of 2020 books worth reading now that should suit a variety of tastes. And while we’re at it, here’s a tale of what one creative book lover did when a dying cottonwood tree stood precariously in front of her Idaho home.

April 7

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For 20 years, happy hour has seen us through work — and life

The book “The Great Good Place” identified people’s need for a “third place” — a space apart from home (first place) and work (second place) where you can relax beyond the pressures of either.

My two most reliable third-place buddies are both men, colleagues I’ve known for a good part of that 20 years. Rarely a week goes by when we don’t go for drinks after work.

The three of us (with a shifting crew of other co-workers) have long tracked the happy-hour options around our office. It has long been mostly chain restaurants and bad sports bars, so imagine our joy when a new craft beer bar opened five minutes away. It had great IPAs, a smart server who was generous with her pours, and a patio where we could sit in the sun, washing off the workday with rivers of hops.

We drank there for years — for birthdays, to farewell colleagues, to celebrate engagements, to commiserate over divorces and illness.

This column, written by M. Carrie Allan, was originally published on March 19, 2019. Read the full story here.

Other Links:

5 local beers you should be drinking

Have your beer and cook with it, too, thanks to these 9 recipes

The Irish may have St. Patrick’s Day, but here in the United States we also have National Beer Day. And it’s today. Franklin D. Roosevelt repealed the prohibition of beer in 1933, and after signing the legislation, Roosevelt famously said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

April 6

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Americans are stocking up on dry goods, toilet paper … and puzzles

As the reality started sinking in across the country that Americans would be urged to stay home for an indefinite period of time during the covid-19 crisis, people have been buying large volumes of beans and rice and soap.

And also puzzles.

The Puzzle Warehouse, a family-owned shop in St. Louis with a huge selection of puzzles, suddenly found itself overwhelmed with business in mid-March.

“This is beyond even Christmas volume,” said Brian Way, who has owned the store with his wife, Susan, for about 10 years. “That’s just insane.”

This story, written by Allison Klein, was originally published on March 24, 2020. Read the full story here.

Other Links:

Puzzling over language: A computational linguistics researcher crafts a crossword for Johns Hopkins

12 board games that allow homebound Americans to travel in their imagination

Check out more Washington Post games

Puzzles are having a moment. They’re selling out at major retailers and small shops as people stuck at home crave the meditative effects of puzzling during these stressful times. One store in St. Louis is still stocked and getting shipments — and is doing 10 times its normal business. In fact, they’re hiring.

April 5

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Virginia hotel workers send family hilarious photos of lost dog toy, delighting thousands across the country

Soft cries came from the back seat about halfway through Allison and Kristofer Kuykendall’s road trip home to Oak Hill, Va., in Fairfax County.

Allison Kuykendall heard her 2-year-old daughter’s voice asking: “Ruff Ruff? Ruff Ruff?”

She realized her toddler’s favorite stuffed dog, Ruff Ruff, had been left behind at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel where the family had stayed while attending a kids soccer tournament in Richmond with their four daughters in March.

As soon as the family unloaded the car that night, Kuykendall called the hotel. Three days later, a box arrived at the Kuykendall home, and nestled next to Ruff Ruff, they found a tin of chocolate chip cookies, a note and five enlarged photos showing how the stuffed dog had spent his solo vacation at the Doubletree — hanging out at the swimming pool, talking on the phone, working on a computer and sleeping in the middle of a king-size bed.

This story, written by Cathy Free, was originally published March 30, 2020. Read the full story here.

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A 4-year-old lost her favorite stuffed cat. It turned up 14 years later behind her house.

The true, tangled tale of the teddy bear, Theodore Roosevelt and the resurgence of a threatened species

Stuffed animals are important comfort to kids — and even some adults — reassuring them that everything’s going to be okay. In recent weeks, teddy bears have popped up in windows around the world to brighten our collective mood. Today, we offer you what might be the sweetest lost-and-found stuffed-animal story of our time.

April 4

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A woman with dementia is lighting up the pop charts with a pitch-perfect tune

A few days after Margaret Mackie, who suffers from dementia, moved into a Scottish care center, food server Jamie Lee Morley walked past the lounge one afternoon and heard a beautiful refrain.

For a moment, he wondered whether somebody had left the radio on. But then he spotted Mackie, 83, singing a pitch-perfect version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

“I was stunned,” recalled Morley.

Morley began singing regular duets with Mackie in the dining room and hallways. A video of one of their songs, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” was posted on the Internet and has been viewed thousands of times — and in January even lit up the pop charts in the United Kingdom and beyond. The track reached No. 6 on the U.K.’s Amazon download chart and at one point reached No. 27 on iTunes’s Top 40 in the U.K., above stars such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran.

This story, written by Cathy Free, was originally published on Jan. 25, 2020. Read the full story here.

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These men just released their first music album — at age 102 and 88

Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour?

It’s an anthem: “You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometime/ You’ll find/ You get what you need.” Thanks, Mick Jagger. We need music, especially these days. Who hasn’t loved seeing Italians singing from rooftops and streaming music on the Internet? Maybe you’ve even grabbed your headphones to rock out on your own, or with your kids — or your dog who is up for anything because he’s so happy you’re home. Music critic Chris Richards recommends these happy songs: Buffalo Springfield, “On the Way Home”; Roy Ayers, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”; Van Morrison, “Wavelength”; Camp Lo, “Luchini (This Is It)”; Amerie, “1 Thing.”

April 3

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The Nats’ celebration wasn’t a parade. It was a massive gathering of a joyous sports family.

The happiest cliche in sports is the victory parade. They’re all the same, but yours, the one you’ve waited so long for, is by far the best.

In this young century, fans of the Cubs (108 years), White Sox (88), Red Sox (86), Astros (55), Giants (52 in San Francisco) and Angels (41) have had glorious parades that ended what seemed like a never-ending wait for their fans. On Nov. 2, Washington’s delay and denial ended after 95 years, if you measure in D.C. time, or a mere 50 in Montreal years, if you are one of the few, the loyal who still measure with an Expos clock.

So in that spirit, as part of a day when nothing can be less than approximately perfect, I allowed my car to decide my route to the parade celebrating the Nationals’ World Series triumph.

This story, written by Thomas Boswell, was originally published on Nov. 3, 2019. Read the full story here.

Other Links:

Best sports books to read

Best sports movies to watch

We were all singing “Baby Shark” after Washington Nationals player Gerardo Parra changed his walk-up song to break out of a hitting slump and because his daughter liked it. The rest is history as the team went on to win the World Series. We’re not watching them now, but Nats fans can still bask in the glory until the season starts.

April 2

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How to upgrade your favorite sandwich

The greatest thing since sliced bread.

We’ve all heard and probably used that famous adage, and as transformative as that innovation was, to me it leaves out half (at least) of the equation — that is, everything that goes between those slices.

Yes, I’m talking about the sandwich. Without the filling, all you have with sliced bread is … thinner bread.

To crust, or not to crust, that is the question.

There are about as many reasons to love sandwiches as there are ways to make them. They’re portable and you can eat them with your hands. They’re fast, easy and cheap to make. Oh, and they’re fun!

That’s where these recipes come in. If your familiar brown-bag sandwich has left you feeling kind of blue, fear not. We took five classic lunch sandwiches and gave them a boost. These updates won't make them unrecognizable or twee, but they will make them taste fresh, flavorful and special.

This story, written by Becky Krystal, was originally published on Aug. 21, 2019. Read the full story here.

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How do astronauts eat pb & j?

It’s true, today is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. You might have been waiting for a day to celebrate America’s favorite comfort-food sandwich, and it’s finally here. Peanut butter was reportedly featured at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, but it wasn’t until later that it was paired with jelly on white bread to perfect the all-ages sandwich staple. In honor of the day, we recommend making a sandwich (it doesn’t need to be pb & j) and checking out this carefully curated sandwich recipe list. We prefer jelly rather than pickles with our peanut butter, but we understand there are some devoted fans out there. No judgment here.

April 1

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Why this man became internationally beloved for his dad jokes

Vince Rozmiarek, who lives in the tiny Colorado town of Indian Hills, has achieved what generations of fathers have striven for: He has become internationally beloved for his dad jokes.

Here’s his favorite — “Cows have hooves because they lactose.”

It’s okay to roll your eyes.

Rozmiarek started his public life of puns six years ago when he began volunteering for his town’s community center and took over managing its roadside message-board sign that stands along the one highway in town.

At first, he posted strait-laced messages for community members, but then on April Fools’ Day 2013, the former stay-at-home dad went for a joke. It ended up a “little haywire,” he said.

Do memory foam mattresses wish they could forget?

“There’s a heavy police presence in the neighboring town of Morrison, where a lot of speeding tickets are issued,” he said. “People hate those speed traps, so on the sign I put, ‘Indian Hills annexed by Morrison.’ I pranked everyone in town and got a call from the Morrison Police Department an hour later.”

Rather than feeling chastened, he was emboldened.

His little sign had gotten so much attention, he thought he might be on to something. Rozmiarek decided to use his platform to try to make people chuckle while driving through Indian Hills, population just over 1,000. He brought mirth to his house for years while his sons were growing up, so why not share his clever quips for all to appreciate?

He had no idea his jokes would go global.

He now has more than 128,000 people from 54 countries following every pun and double entendre that he posts on his Indian Hills Community Sign Facebook page. He puts up photos when he changes his jokes, and each post often gets thousands of “likes.” His followers post their own puns in response, or just post their gratitude for the laugh. On a recent post, one fan wrote, “This little place saves my life most days.”

This story was written by Cathy Free and published on Aug. 27, 2019. Read the full story here.

The origins of April Fools’ Day remain in dispute, but many of the pranks through the years are legendary. Remember when Taco Bell said it bought the Liberty Bell and planned to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell? This year, we can probably all use some laughter, but maybe no mischief. To that end, we offer you the best (worst?) dad jokes and the man who, on this day, became famous for them.

Other links:

Heard the one about the Johns Hopkins students who studied stand-up comedy?

Comedians are being hired by the hour to help dementia patients. Their goal? ‘A full belly’

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Illustrations by Rob Wilson

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